Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Lexical Borrowings and Calques from African American Slang in Polish Youth Slang-A Study Based on a Selected Internet Forum

Academic journal article Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies

Lexical Borrowings and Calques from African American Slang in Polish Youth Slang-A Study Based on a Selected Internet Forum

Article excerpt

The aim of the article is to present a very preliminary chunk of a wider study of Polish slang, whose aim is to pinpoint lexical influence of American English in broad terms and the usage and understanding among Polish youngsters of various types of borrowings. More specifically, the authors have concentrated on the borrowings of words, phrases and meanings from a sociolect known as African American English to the language of Polish youngsters. To this end, the largest Polish hardcore punk Internet forum has been scrutinized. The conducted analysis points to a discernible, albeit not significant lexical influence of the sociolect on the Polish youth slang, which calls for a more nuanced, survey-based analysis the authors wish to undertake as part of their research project.

1. Introduction

For quite some time Polish has been heavily borrowing lexical items from British English, items representing an array of semantic fields. Not surprisingly, books, chapters, and essays on Anglicisms in Polish have proliferated. However, due to an increasing popularity of the American variety of English worldwide, Polish has also borrowed some of its lexical elements. Among these one can spot words, phrases, and meanings which might have not or did not originate in American English per se, but in a sociolect known as African American English, especially within its slang level. To the best of the authors' knowledge, the transfer of Americanisms as well as lexemes and phrases from an ethnolect of the Black minority in the United States to Polish constitute an area to which not much, if any, heed has been paid thus far.

Undoubtedly, the popularity of rap music and the whole hip-hop culture among the Polish youth (Garcarz 2005) is a factor instrumental in the process of borrowing of lexical elements from the language of African Americans to Polish youth slang. (1) Interestingly, however, this phenomenon is not only confined to youth circles connected with hip-hop lifestyle, but it can also be traced in the subculture which has been rather resistant to cultural influences of the African American minority in the US. This subculture is known as hard-core punk and its cultural connections with African American heritage are rather loose.

Thus said, the authors of the present essay focus on depicting some of the borrowings found in one of the largest, if not the largest, Polish hard-core punk Internet forums. (2) This article shows a very preliminary chunk of a wider study of Polish slang, whose aim is to pinpoint lexical influence of American English in broad terms and the usage and understanding among Polish youngsters of various types of borrowings. Importantly, this youth is rather not culturally connected with hip-hop (3) in a direct way (in the case of young Polish rappers/hip-hoppers, the plausible transfer of words, especially referring to either musical or cultural phenomena or both, is relatively obvious).

2. Theoretical underpinnings

For a start, two terms--slang as well as African American English - require brief clarification. Lighter (2001: 220) provides the following succinct definition of the former:

   Slang denotes an informal, nonstandard, nontechnical vocabulary
   composed chiefly of novel-sounding synonyms (and near synonyms) for
   standard words and phrases; it is often associated with youthful,
   raffish, or undignified persons and groups; and it conveys often
   striking connotations of impertinence or irreverence, especially
   for established attitudes and values within the prevailing culture.

When it comes to the latter, the language of African Americans, i.e. African American English (henceforth AAE) is a sociolect or an ethnolect of the American variety of English. In a nutshell, it is characterized by pronunciation patters different from the mainstream variety, (4) traces of syntactic elements inherited from indigenous African languages, disparate morphosyntax which is not present in General American, (5) and some specific vocabulary. …

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